The 7 C's of Onboarding: How to integrate Connection?

Appical Team
Jessica Heijmans
December 8, 2022
min read
Table of Contents
Are you familiar with the 7C framework? You should be, because these building blocks will help you make your onboarding program a success.We dove into the research on each of the C’s, and will share our highlights (and best practices) with you in our series of blogs. In this blog, we give you all the information you need to apply one of the original 4 Cs: Connection.

What are the 7 C’s of Onboarding? 

Talya Bauer developed the well-known onboarding 4 C framework more than a decade ago. Since then, 2 C's have been added. Leading to the following 6 C’s of onboarding: Compliance, Clarification, Culture, Connection, Confidence and Checkback. Appical added one extra ‘C’: Creativity. This ‘C’ gives your onboarding process that ‘wow’ factor.

> Catch up on all the 7 C’s in our whitepaper

Let's give our full attention to 'Connection' first.

What does ‘Connection’ mean?

Connection is the most important factor in involving and thus retaining people. Nothing makes a new employee more engaged than the feeling that they are understood, connected and safe from the start.

When we are talking about connection, we mean: building meaningful connections with colleagues and the company. Connection refers to how accepted, recognized, and valued new employees feel. Keep in mind: If you want to achieve success with your business, strong connections with employees should be one of your first priorities.

Why is ‘Connection’ important? 

Even though it may sound counterintuitive, socializing at work is actually good for business. Creating and nurturing relationships in the workplace is essential to employee engagement, motivation, productivity and commitment.

“Quality work relationships help build a strong company culture that emphasizes respect, loyalty, and trust. Social connection provides a sense of cohesion in the office, which is essential for cultivating creativity, teamwork and collaboration.” (Forbes)

Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated their co-workers as the top reason they love their company (Virgin Pulse)

Happiness & health

Social relationships are not only good for business, but also for the individual. Research shows that relationships have a huge impact on our health, happiness and quality of life (The Harvard Study of Adult Development). 

Colleagues can also have a positively impact on stress levels on the job (Virgin Pulse). Which is important, because workplace stress can result in low employee engagement, poor employee performance, increased absences, and a lack of focus and productivity (Business News Daily). Eventually this could also lead to voluntary turnover (Stress.org).

"58% of people said happiness is even more important to them than salary" - Wildgoose

Friends in the office

Friendships have tremendous implications in the workplace. Gallup has repeatedly shown that having best friends at work is key to employee engagement and job success. 

People who have friends at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, and having a close friend at work is related to a 50% boost in job satisfaction.

Sadly, it’s also the case that just 30% of employees have a best friend at work. Employees without a best friend in the workplace have a smaller chance of being engaged (Gallup). 

Friends and business outcomes

Having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including profitability, safety, inventory control and retention. Employees who have a best friend at work are significantly more likely to:

  • Engage customers and internal partners
  • Produce higher-quality work & get more done in less time
  • Support a safe workplace with fewer accidents 
  • Innovate and share ideas
  • Have a greater sense of well-being

Altogether, employees with close work friends are happier and less likely to leave the company (Workplace Friendship & Happiness Survey). 

How do you implement ‘Connection’ in your onboarding program?

Although research has found that socializing at work is good for business, only 5% of workers strongly agree that their organization helps them build stronger personal relationships (Gallup). There is definitely room for improvement.

An onboarding process that emphasizes connection begins before the first day of work. In the prehire-phase even. Start with a clear description of your culture, mission and values in your job descriptions. And ensure a good fit between the candidate and the organization.

The preboarding phase is the best time to start fostering human connections with and between employees. Think about invitations for lunch, upcoming team activities, and messages from the entire team to make new employees feel like they belong. Be sure to include this in your onboarding process as well. 

Some pointers for the preboarding and onboarding phase:

1. Make sure there are familiar faces

The last thing a new employee wants to feel on their first day of work is alone or lost. Walking into a room full of familiar faces on the first day can make a big difference. So share a document with photos, functions and quotes about the employees. Also ensure everyone knows that a new colleague is starting and is in the office to welcome them.


2. Establish a buddy system

Designate a buddy who supports your new employee in the first weeks and serves as a reference point for questions about the organization and culture. Workplace buddies give new hires tips on the way of working, but also on unwritten rules and team dynamics. They help new hires make connections with other colleagues. Some of these connections might lead to long-term relationships.

> Check out our onboarding buddy toolbox

3. Make workplace connection a ritual

Create connection moments that offer room for appreciations, updates and check-ins on an ongoing basis. An example might be daily stand-ups, where employees start each day by sharing how they are feeling (for example with colour codes, like: red, yellow and green) and telling what they will be doing that day. Or “Town Hall” meetings, where each month company updates and accomplishments of colleagues are shared.

4. Improve Manager-Employee Relationships

When it comes to employee happiness, bosses and supervisors play a bigger role than one might guess. Relationships with management are the top factor in employees’ job satisfaction, according to an analysis by McKinsey. Unfortunately, research says that the time of day or the time in the week that people least enjoy is when they’re with their boss. 

Some pointers to improve your relationship with your employee:

  • Ask colleagues how they’re doing: how was their weekend, or holiday?
  • Share about your own life with your colleagues
  • Recognize great work 
  • Promote a healthy work-life balance

5. Check in on a regular basis

Yes, it can be that simple. Having colleagues show that they care can play an important role in connecting. As EY reported in their Belonging Barometer study, “39% of respondents say that when colleagues check in with them about how they are doing, both personally and professionally, they feel the greatest sense of belonging at work."

6. Make the work culture friendship-friendly

Developing work friendships can’t be forced, but employers and management can help create a safe and social environment. A couple of tips:

  • Make new hires feel welcomed and comfortable by introducing them to the team and encourage introductory meetups
  • Don’t limit conversations to email or formal meetings. Think outside the box. For example, explore the neighborhood during a walking meeting
  • Set up team-building events. Team building can boost workplace friendship potential. A Wildgoose survey found that 46% of respondents said face-to-face after-work drinks are their favourite team-building activity
  • Take an interest in employees’ personal lives. You don’t need to know every detail of your teammates’ history, but you should take an interest in your colleagues as real people.

7. Create connections online

Creating relationships and preventing social isolation is a major challenge when working remotely.  New hires need extra help connecting with their teammates. Especially when they are working fully remotely, but just as well when employees are dividing their days between the office and their own home.

Luckily, building a good relationship with team members can also be done from a distance! For example, via: virtual coffee dates, a welcome package on the doormat, regular video calls with the team (with your cameras on), virtual team building activities (game night, anyone?) and casual conversations via email or Slack.

Best practice: Building a network at KPMG

In KPMG's award-winning onboarding program, new colleagues learn about the organization while getting in touch with other new colleagues. The goal is to build an initial network in the organization early on. This happens both online and on location. 

New colleagues are welcomed in the app before the first working day,  followed by various on-site activities.. The big 'connect' moment is during a two-day event at an external location during the first working week. But there are also 'reconnect moments' after 50 and 100 days where new colleagues meet again. Read more about this onboarding program (in Dutch).

Get all the information you need on the other 7 C's:

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